Revelation 5: On June 3, we are reminded about the Martyrs of Uganda – ironic since their killers thought they were putting an end to their existence by the brutal death!
Evil in this world is real, and it lurks in our hearts. Tragedy stalks us often, but there are times when it seems very overwhelming. Years ago, the papers published a story of a one Kintu who lost his (second) wife to breast cancer. His first wife had succumbed to the same disease! His lot is something we think otherworldly.
During Idi Amin’s reign of terror, our loved ones were murdered or tortured by his ‘intelligence’ service, the State Research Bureau. I once lived on an apartment building, the same floor level as one state research agent. One day, he forced his tenant to jump through the window to the concrete below. The man broke both his legs. Then the state research agent watched over him on the ground, refusing motorists to take him to hospital!
At such times we ask, where is humanity headed? The martyrs must have asked that too. The answer to this question is what Jesus gives in the Scroll. The Scroll prominently had writings on both sides. Like a Roman will or deed, it t contained information about the future, God’s future history book.
John was in despair over the persecution of Christians, and he started to cry. When we do not see the Christ, we are reduced to despair with nowhere to turn for comfort and encouragement. The politics and economics of our nation sometimes resound with despair. If this is all we have to live for, we are most to be pitied.
The scroll was a special book, but it was also a closed book. But what is the secret of this Scroll? It was about the Lamb of God who was slain; who alone by His death is worthy to open the Scroll.
When no one could open it, and they all looked defeated and helpless, Jesus could open it because of who He is.
The opening of the Scroll is not for the strong but for the worthy. The Lamb was slain – and therefore He was in a state of weakness) – not power to wrestle the Scroll from the LORD on the throne; but a state of worthiness because He obeyed His Father to the Cross.
We are told that there was, “One seated on the throne and yet the Lamb stood in the centre of the throne”. For He is One with the Father, together the Triune God charts the course of history. The Son does not do it apart from or against the will of the Father, but in perfect harmony with Him.
Secondly, the Scroll is about the sovereignty of the Lamb of God. Jesus is called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David ….” He has already triumphed. His death on the Cross (and His resurrection) is defeat of sin, death, hell, and Satan himself. The cause of the martyrs, and of those who stand steadfast as they did, is not lost.
For this reason, Jesus is the centre of future History; the centre is not the upheavals around us. History without Him is meaningless – it becomes tragedy and despair and hopelessness.
The Scroll is testimony that world history is not in the hands of Satan or politicians or religious leaders or angels.
Jesus alone is worthy to take the Scroll out of the hands of God. He alone controls the future of our world and life. The present sufferings are not conclusive about our future. Job said, “My Redeemer lives…”, meaning that his suffering was not his future.
Finally, the Scroll is about the future of a people He has ransomed for Himself. Through His sacrificial death Jesus has conquered Satan and redeemed a people for Himself, and His work of redemption suffices for all peoples for all time.
We are assured that the prayers of the redeemed ascend to Jesus directly, not through priests or ancestors, and they are as sweet incense to Him. He bought them by His blood – that is how precious our redemption is. Therefore, we shall worship him always, joining the heavenly praise of the martyrs to God and to the Lamb.
There, praise and worship to the Lamb is unceasing. It is not a short interlude in our Sunday’s ‘praise and worship’. In fact, heavenly singing is in concentric circles. It begins from the four living creatures and the 24 elders, spreads to the voice of myriads of angels, and finally reverberates from every living creature on earth and in heaven.
This was the faith of the martyrs; it is our faith today.